NFL Predictions Week 2: Upset Picks and Projections

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2018

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) celebrates after rushing 68 yards for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

Making predictions for the NFL's Week 2 slate is one of the toughest balancing acts of the year. 

It can be easy to overreact coming out of the first week, where a few odd results are bound to happen while players shake off rust and a wealth of changes both on the field and off influence results. 

The trick is figuring out—quickly—which results will turn out to be anomalies in the long run and which ones are a serious sign of things to come. A good example would be the tie between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns. As usual, those Steelers, equipped with the usual core pieces, will build some momentum and be fine as the season progresses. 

But that is just one example, but some of those happenings that look more like foreshadowing help create some interesting upset picks on the Week 2 schedule. 


Week 2 NFL Odds

Baltimore (-3) at Cincinnati | O/U 44

Carolina at Atlanta (-5) | O/U 44

Cleveland at New Orleans (-8.5) | O/U 50

Houston at Tennessee (n/a)  | O/U n/a

Indianapolis at Washington (-5.5) | O/U 46

Kansas City at Pittsburgh (-5.5) | O/U 53.5

L.A. Chargers (-7.5) at Buffalo | O/U 42.5

Miami at N.Y. Jets (-1) | O/U n/a

Minnesota at Green Bay (-2.5)  | O/U n/a

Philadelphia (-3) at Tampa Bay | O/U 44

Arizona at L.A. Rams (-10) | O/U 47

Detroit at San Francisco (-3.5) | O/U n/a

Oakland at Denver (-4) | O/U n/a

New England at Jacksonville (E) | O/U 45

N.Y. Giants at Dallas (-3) | O/U 42

Seattle at Chicago (-3) | O/U 43


Carolina at Atlanta (-5) 

Mike McCarn/Associated Press

The Atlanta Falcons imploding in the season opener was as predictable as it gets. 

Those who have watched the Falcons play each year since losing Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator knew this sort of downswing was coming.

It started last year when Matt Ryan had a "down" season with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and Julio Jones was somehow taken out of the equation and only scored three times.

Jones had 10 catches for 169 yards on 19 targets in Week 1, yet he had some notable absences with the Falcons deep in scoring territory—his Falcons ended up going down at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles, 18-12. 

Now the Falcons head into a Week 2 matchup against the Carolina Panthers down not only Keanu Neal, but another key defender: 

It's a bad time for the Falcons to run into the Panthers even if they are at full strength thanks to the Carolina defense, which just held the Dallas Cowboys to 232 total yards in a 16-8 Panthers win. 

As expected, the Carolina defense looks great. Even better, the offense seems to be going the opposite direction as the Falcons, getting former first-round pick Christian McCaffrey heavily involved against the Cowboys, resulting in 10 carries for 50 yards and six catches for 45 yards, leading the team in both areas. 

There's also Cam Newton, of course. While this one is away from home, the Panthers already have film of a Nick Foles-led offense beating the Atlanta defense and can scheme talents like McCaffery to hurt the Falcons where they are missing key players, so look for Carolina to get to 2-0 while creating an interesting bit of betting upside. 

Prediction: Panthers 28, Falcons 24


Kansas City at Pittsburgh (-5.5) 

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Pittsburgh should get back to its normal self soon enough, but that doesn't mean it will happen right away. 

The Steelers tied the Browns not because they were missing Le'Veon Bell—James Conner went off for 135 yards and two scores on a 4.4 per-carry average. He added another five catches for 57 yards, too. Ben Roethlisberger was the bigger problem considering not only the three interceptions, but two lost fumbles. 

And the biggest problem of all is named Patrick Mahomes. 

Mahomes is one of those long-term outlook types fans need to be aware of coming out of Week 1. He silenced any doubters going into his sophomore season by torching the Los Angeles Chargers to the tune of 256 yards and four scores. 

And while some of this comes down to sheer offensive genius from head coach Andy Reid, Mahomes hit some tight-window throws many can't: 

There are still going to be bad games from a young quarterback like Mahomes, but this weekend in Pittsburgh shouldn't be one of them. The Steelers only have one full game of film to pull from and, outside of seven sacks, let the Browns rush for 4.7 yards per carry and two scores while also allowing a 100-yard receiver. 

Pittsburgh is a slow starter as always (3-2 last year, losing to a bad Chicago team and getting blown out by  Jacksonville) and down an MVP-caliber player. Reid and Mahomes are a tandem built to take down contenders, not just teams struggling to get out of the gates, so bettors know what to do. 

Prediction: Chiefs 30, Steelers 24


N.Y. Giants at Dallas (-3) 

Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

Maybe Dez Bryant was right. 

One look at the free-agent wideout's Twitter account showcases his criticisms of the Dallas offense and how he wasn't part of the problem. 

And indeed, one look at Bryant's career numbers shows a decline once Dak Prescott got under center. Reasons vary, of course, but the Cowboys sure don't look good coming out of the Week 1 loss to Carolina after putting up eight points while Prescott went 19-of-29 for 170 yards and only ran Ezekiel Elliott 15 times. 

Sans Bryant, the Cowboys don't have a dynamic receiving weapon for Prescott, which proved true enough because Cole Beasley led the team in receiving and targets. 

The New York Giants don't have the same problem around Eli Manning.

No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley looks as advertised, having ripped off 106 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in the Giants Week 1 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars: 

Dallas gave up huge chunk plays to Carolina on the ground over 32 attempts, surrendering 147 yards and two scores on a 4.6 average. But the defense can't lick wounds for too long, as Barkley is only part of the problem—Odell Beckham Jr. casually had a 100-yard day in the season opener as well. 

Until Prescott can prove capable of elevating the rather stunning lack of weapons around him, bettors can use the national hype for the Cowboys to their advantage by picking suitable underdogs against them. The Giants, even coming off a loss, fall under this umbrella thanks to pieces that can do serious damage on chunk plays. 

Prediction: Giants 24, Cowboys 14


Odds via OddsShark


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